Can states with own tests be exempted from NEET this year, SC asks centre

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the central governments if the states which have conducted their own entrance exams for admission to under graduate medical courses could be exempted from NEET for this year and whether the students who had appeared for NEET-I could sit for NEET-II.

The query came as a battery of senior lawyers representing different states told the bench of Justice Anil R. Dave, Justice Shiva Kirti Singh and Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel that students who had their schooling in their mother tongue would be put to disadvantage if asked to write their NEET exam in English.

Even as the bench asked Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar to respond to its queries on Friday afternoon when it would hear the matter further, he said that about 40,000 students out of more than six lakh who had to appear in NEET-I but did not take the exam in favour of some other state level exams may be permitted to appear in NEET-II on July 24.

As court sought the solicitor general's response whether students who had appeared in NEET-I could take another chance, Additional Solicitor General Pinki Anand appearing for Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) said if not impossible, it would be difficult to conduct the exam by giving repeat chance to those who had appeared in NEET-I held on May 1.

The Medical Council of India (MCI) meanwhile urged the court that if it decides to permit another chance to the students who had appeared in NEET-I, then it should be made clear that such students would lose any claim to the outcome of NEET-I.

At the outset of the hearing, the court made it clear that so long it has not stayed the operation of NEET or modified its April 11 and subsequent orders, NEET was the only avenue for admission in medical courses for current academic year.

It cleared the stand as some lawyers sought clarification on the media report that said that the top court has permitted the conduct of entrance exams by state governments and the association of private medical colleges.

A battery of senior lawyers including Kapil Sibal, Rajeev Dhavan, Shyam Divan, Divan, P.P.Rao, Gopal Subramanium, V. Giri, Harin Raval and Additional Solicitor General Tushar Mehta appearing for various states and others were unanimous in telling the court that insistence on NEET would be detrimental to the students from rural background who had schooling in their mother tongue and were not comfortable with English.

Appearing for Maharashtra, Divan said that insistence on NEET for admission to undergraduate medical courses was doing a great wrong for a small right. "It is great wrong for doing a small right" Divan told the court quoting Shakespeare who had said, "To do a great right, do a little wrong".

He told the court that so long the Maharashtra law providing for state level entrance exam has not be repudiated, how could there be insistence on the NEET as mandatory route for taking admission to medical courses.

The court was told that it would not be "cataclysmic" if it modified its earlier order and permitted the students from different states who had their schooling in their mother tongue to appear in state level entrance examination.

Sibal, Dhavan, Giri and others meanwhile told the court that laws enacted by the state legislatons proving for CET could not be overshadowed by a subordinate law made by an ad-hoc regulatory body (MCI) as it could only be done by the parliament in exercise of its plenary power to legislate.

Reiterating the earlier argument that the five judge bench by its April 11 order had recalled the July 18, 2013 verdict by which December 21, 2010 notification providing for NEET was set aside but has not decided the validity of NEET on merits, Dhavan told the court that a matter that was heard by five judges' bench could not be visited by the bench of three judges.

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